Clarissa’s birthday museum adventure

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Every time we take Tim to work, we see the Washington Monument in the distance. Clarissa gets really excited and points and shouts, “Look! It’s the tall tower!” When we asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday adventure she said she wanted to see the Dinosaur Museum and the Tall Tower.

Her adventure day was rainy. And we told her that we could go and see the outside of the Tall Tower but the inside would not be open until next month. So she decided that we could skip the Washington Monument this time and go back in the fall so we could see the whole thing.

We started the day by taking the same bus that Tim takes to work every morning. Then we took the metro into Washington DC. Our first stop was the National Air and Space Museum. Clarissa loved it. She thought the space shuttles were amazing and she enjoyed the kid exhibits that taught about friction and flight. She was even able to climb into a cockpit and pretend to fly an airplane. Some of the exhibits in the kid section were out of order and they are renovating the museum right now, so we will probably need to go back again to see everything.

We crossed the National Mall and saw the Capital Building on one side and the Washington Monument on the other, so she did get to see the Tall Tower from a distance.

Next, we headed to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Clarissa was able to see her dinosaurs. But she also really liked both the mammal and bird exhibits to see real animals instead of just bones. She was really excited about the dioramas in the fossil section as well. We didn’t head upstairs to see the bugs because we were getting hungry, so I’m sure we’ll be back.

We went to Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. All three of us enjoy the food there so we knew it would be a good choice.

After lunch, Clarissa asked for one more museum. We decided to the try the International Spy Museum. I’m not going to lie. This museum is pricey. Clarissa was free because she was 6 but the adult prices are over $20, even with a discount. Clarissa loved it, so I guess it was worth it. But Tim and I would have preferred to go by ourselves to really enjoy the experience.

When you go into the museum, the staff hands you a lanyard that you scan into the computer. The computer gives you a secret identity. Then, they usher you into a room to watch a movie about being a spy before releasing you into the general museum. There were a few computers to get clues and work on your mission. However, it was a really crowded, rainy, Friday in the summer, so we couldn’t get near the computers. The exhibits were very informative, but Clarissa blew through them because it required a lot of reading and she just isn’t there yet. So we looked at some pictures and spy stuff, but didn’t really get the full experience.

The next floor wasn’t quite as crowded, so we did a little bit with the computers and reviewed some clues. Clarissa was excited to find her clue and scan her lanyard. The exhibits were very informative and had video as well as text on the walls. I think this museum is geared toward tweens/teens and adults. Clarissa wasn’t afraid of anything at the museum, but I think she would have gotten way more out of it if she was older.

After the third museum, the pregnant lady was pretty tired, so we headed back. We took the metro back to the Pentagon and then the bus back home. On the walk home she said, “This was the best day ever!”

We wanted to watch a spy movie but couldn’t think of one that was really appropriate for Clarissa (other than Bolt which she’s seen a hundred times) so we ended up watching some White Collar. She was really into it after the museum so we’ll have to find a spy movie for her.

Clarissa is 6!

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Most days, I feel like six years has flown by. But in other ways, I feel like we’ve lived so much life in those six years that it’s hard to remember life before Clarissa was born.

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The nice thing about having a blog (and Facebook memories) is that it’s fun to be able to look back and remember things that have happened. So I’ve spent some time reading Clarissa memories this week. Clarissa let me read some of them to her and she laughed at some of the posts. Some things I had forgotten about. Others I am surprised she still does. For example, I think that the list of foods she will actually eat gets smaller each year and she still says “back pag” and “sun scream.”

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But in other ways, Clarissa has really grown. We did actually do kindergarten at home  and this summer she started to read on her own. She really will only read during “school time” and prefers me to read books to her. She also refuses to sound things out when she is writing. She asks me to spell things for her so that they can be correct. But I’ll take it… She is looking forward to continuing first grade at home this fall after Tiffany arrives.

She is really excited to be a big sister. I think she will be a good helper. And the six year age gap means that they will be in different stages all the time so I think sibling rivalry will be less. She still loves her bunk bed but is adamant that she doesn’t want to share her room which is completely different than last year.

Clarissa still loves playing in water. In Korea, she mostly played in the bath tub. In America, there are more options. Our townhouse complex has some communal hoses that the kids use to spray each other or for sprinklers. She never experienced this in Korea and this is one of her favorite things. When we went to Virginia Beach, she loved jumping over the waves in the ocean. She has enjoyed playing in the pool this month with her new co-op friends. I think we need to invest in swimming lessons next year once Tiffany allows us to be on a schedule.

This is only her second birthday in America, though it is the first one that she will remember (we moved to South Korea when she was 18 months old). She spent the day at the pool with her new friends from co-op and all afternoon she kept saying to me, “This is the best day of my entire life!” Apparently when you are 6, swimming with your friends is important.

Clarissa has really been settling into life in America. We have been here about three months and she really enjoys the fact that most people speak English and that we have a car during the week to go on adventures whenever we want to. She has made friends with several neighbors and plays outside whenever she can. She makes a new friend every time we go to the playground. I am looking forward to fall when we have weekly park days to see the same group of kids each week to build deeper relationships.

Clarissa also is excited about being only a few hours away from each set of grandparents. She has already seen each set twice and has made some memories with them as well as her cousin.

Clarissa enjoys our new church. She has a few friends in her Sunday school class and looks forward to learning her memory verse each week. She continues to enjoy reading Bible stories and doing crafts at home. She is interested to know if our neighborhood friends love Jesus and will ask people outright if they love God or go to church. She even tried to baptize herself in the bathtub this year.

She isn’t as in to toys right now. She is all about her stuffed animals though. Everywhere we go, she needs to bring a backpack full of stuffed animals. They don’t always leave the backpack during the adventure. But they are available if she wants them. She tells people, “I have enough animals to make my own zoo!” And she’s probably right. She often takes containers and fills them with animals to make a zoo in her bedroom or the living room. The animals need to look real so they can’t wear clothes or have tags on them. The tags of new animals have to get cut off in the car. She also says, “I love all animals, ocean animals, and bugs infinity.”

Clarissa is also very into dressing up. While it’s true, she would rather wear a skirt or dress than shorts, that’s not what I mean. She often is in costume. If we watch a movie, she will often pretend to be the main character in the movie later in the day or the next day. She needs a costume and accessories to look like the main character. If the colors aren’t correct, she will get upset. She’s a bit of a perfectionist. She also gets very upset about being a princess. She says she is a warrior instead.

The funniest thing she says right now is “I am the mayor of Crazy Town.” I don’t remember exactly how that started. I think Tim said something to her once because she was being silly but she ran with it. She will tell you that she is the mayor of Crazy Town, Mittens is the mayor of Mewkins Town, Mommy is the mayor of Cooking Town, and Daddy is the mayor of Electronics Town. I wonder what Tiffany will be the mayor of?

 

Learning Dynamics Review

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Clarissa and I did kindergarten together at home this year. She loves math and wants me to read to her all day long. But when it comes to learning how to read she gets excited about a new program for about a week and then gets frustrated that it is too hard and wants to stop.  We have tried a few different programs without success. So I was excited to try the Learning Dynamics Reading Program produced by Learning Dynamics.

The program recommends 15 minutes per day, at least 3 days per week. It starts pretty slow by learning one letter sound each in the first five lessons before you review them together in lesson 6. Even though Clarissa already knows most of her letters and sounds, I chose to start at lesson 1. I thought this would build her confidence, and I was correct. She actually really enjoyed the first few lessons and would ask to do more than one per day.

Each lesson had a few different components. There were three different flash cards for each letter. She enjoyed looking at those and collecting the small cards. Though eventually she invented her own games with them. There is an alphabet song that is supposed to be played at every lesson. Clarissa isn’t very big into kid songs, so halfway through, she had her hands over her ears. The same thing happened with each individual letter song so after the first couple of lessons, I didn’t bother with the songs. She was really excited about the letter hunts at the end of each lesson.

M was the first letter. At the end of that lesson, we were to walk around the house and find things that start with the “mmm” sound. She received an M&M for each word she found. The same thing happened with p for popcorn. She also enjoyed coloring the words that started with the correct letter. I think she also appreciated that it was only one page of written work each day. She had to write one row of lower case letters and color a few pictures so it was quick and easy.

By the end of the review period she was getting frustrated with the coloring page. She wanted to color in all of the pictures. So I made her tell me which words started with the correct letter before she started coloring. Then she would tell me which sound the other pictures started with.

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The program comes with four sets of books: blue, red, yellow, and green. She was excited to read those books before we got to them. So we definitely previewed each set of books before she was supposed to read them herself.

I am excited to report that we finally found a reading program that Clarissa enjoys! She said to me at one point, “I like reading now!” and she is getting to be a better reader everyday. After lesson 6, there is practice with blending words each day. She is pretty good at blending the three letter words now. She will read the simple books too. The first couple of books were single words on a page. It took a few books before she was supposed to read sentences, which was great, because by then she was ready.

I appreciated that each book had a list of words at the beginning of the book. In this way, we were able to practice the words before we actually tried to read the book. Clarissa already was familiar with most of the words before she saw them in the book so she didn’t have to spend as much time sounding out each word in the book. She enjoyed reading more that way. There are also comprehension questions to ask at the end of each book to make sure that your reader understood what they read and didn’t just sound out the words.

This video is book 7 of the blue book series. She has only completed lesson 18 of 41 in Lesson Manual one.

The lesson manual spells out which books you are supposed to read with each lesson. Books 1-13 are for lessons 9-33. Lessons 34-42 are two vowel lessons, where you will finish reading the blue set of books (books 14-23). Then there is a second part of the lesson manual that goes more in depth with advanced sounds and the other three set of books. I think it will take us several months to finish this program.

I am excited that most of the pieces of this program are reusable. The only part I will need to replace is the student workbook when I need to teach my second daughter to read in a few years. You can read about what other families thought of the program here.

Learning Dynamics Reading Program  {Learning Dynamics Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Happy Third Trimester to me!

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Today marks the beginning of the third trimester in Tiffany’s pregnancy. In some ways, I am so ready to meet her. And in other ways, I am glad she has a few months before she joins us. I think I would feel more ready if our furniture from Korea was in our current house. Soon enough. With about twelve weeks to go, the house will be ready in plenty of time for her arrival.

At Clarissa’s twenty week ultrasound, they had a few concerns. There was a small hole in her heart and she had a “bright bowel.” They had concerns about things like Down Syndrome and Cystic Fibrosis. This was terrifying for a first time mom, but the blessing in it was that they sent me to EVMS (the local medical school) for further testing and ultrasounds. I got to see extra clear pictures of Clarissa at 22 weeks and 28 weeks and then another set at 35 weeks. By 22 weeks, the heart in her heart had closed and by 28 weeks her bowels were fine. She just wasn’t “ready” at the earlier ultrasound times.

With Tiffany, the ultrasound schedule has been completely different. While we were in Korea, they did an ultrasound at every appointment. We have been looking at things like her brain, spine, and liver since the beginning. We left Korea at about 20 weeks so they didn’t get to my anatomy scan before we left. My only ultrasound at my American doctor was at 24 weeks and I had to ask for that since I missed the 20 week anatomy scan that most people get. Her ultrasound showed that everything was fine, so that was the only ultrasound my ob plans to do this pregnancy.

On the one hand, I was glad for this. Tiffany is healthy. There are no concerns. On the other hand, I was sad. I got to see clear pictures of Clarissa’s face all the time. And we still had not really seen a great picture of Tiffany’s face. We decided that we would go to a special place that specializes in 4d elective ultrasounds. We went to InfantSeeHD in Fairfax.

Maria, our ultrasound tech was wonderful! She was super excited to see our baby. She had me move around in different positions so that we could see more. Tiffany had one of her feet in her face pretty much the entire time, but Maria was able to move around so that we could see her whole face anyway. She also said that Tiffany already has a full head of hair. We also got to watch Tiffany practice sucking on the placenta.

I’m not going to lie. There was a little bit of sticker shock when we saw the price for the ultrasound packages. Because there were concerns with Clarissa, insurance paid for all of her extra ultrasounds so I had no concept about how much these things normally cost. But we did get a full video recording of the thirty minute session and 84 still images on a jump drive.

Then, I wanted to celebrate. So we decided to check out Happy Tart, a gluten free bakery, in Falls Church. We parked in the garage for Pearson Square and it was really easy to find. The prices were reasonable for gluten free treats. Cookies and macaroons were $1.75. Cupcakes were $4.50 each. They also had bags of English muffins and drinks for sale. Clarissa loved her cookie. Tim and I thought the cupcakes were delicious. We will definitely be back!

Then we finished our evening with dinner in Shirlington. Since it was my choice, I chose Guapo’s for a Mexican dinner. I pretty much always love my Mexican food. The impressive part was that Tim enjoyed his dinner too.

How my second pregnancy compares to my first

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With six years between pregnancies, sometimes it’s interesting to me to think about the things that are different and the things that are the same.

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I was 29 when I was pregnant with Clarissa. We got pregnant very quickly once we started trying. I was surprised at how quickly I felt like I started showing. Most of my friends who were pregnant about that time were losing weight during their first trimester but I gained 8 pounds. I didn’t get that sick as long as I kept eating, which is why I gained weight in the beginning when everyone else was losing. I was so concerned that I was going to be huge by the time it was over, but I was fine. I only gained about 35 pounds total.

At 35, it took a few months longer to get pregnant with Tiffany. I feel like I started showing before I even knew I was pregnant (and I found out at 3 weeks!). I think I gained 12 pounds during the first trimester? But I weighed more before I got pregnant this time so I felt like I was way bigger. I was more sick in the beginning and I had to avoid certain foods or I would get sick. But in general, I had to eat every couple of hours. At 25 weeks, I have already gained 30 pounds so I anticipate that I will gain more than 35 pounds this pregnancy.

I am more relaxed this pregnancy.  Well, we did move to a different continent, so maybe peaceful is a better word. With Clarissa, I had several friends who had miscarried and I was so worried that I was going to lose her. That is why God told me early on that she would be “a little girl with great faith.” And even then, I was worried when things weren’t perfect on the ultrasounds.

With Tiffany, I had ultrasounds every appointment in Korea. That probably helped me to know that she was fine. I didn’t really have a word for her other than the day we found out we were pregnant God told me that “mercy and grace would follow me all the days of my life.” So when we found out we were having a girl, I really didn’t have any ideas for names right away.

I switched obs during both pregnancies. With Clarissa, I didn’t care for several doctors in the group that I was going to see. I wasn’t concerned at first because I really thought that we would move to Korea at that time. But when it became clear that wasn’t happening right away, I switched doctors. We did do a natural child birth class where the teacher talked about all of the natural things to do and talked about how bad epidurals were. I wasn’t really prepared for my 54 hours of back labor and really felt defeated that I got an epidural at like hour 45.

The reason I switched obs this round is that we moved from South Korea to Northern Virginia. It was harder than I thought it was going to be to switch obs. First of all, prenatal care is different in Korea than it is in America so my records were “incomplete” because they did different tests. And then there was the fact that some of my records aren’t in English. So it was difficult to find an ob to accept my records. Eventually they did when I went in person to explain my records.

They eventually were like, “Oh are you State Department?”

“No, but my husband works for the government.”

“So the government sent you to Korea for four years?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, then you’re fine.”

So basically, if we had been missionaries, English teachers, or just expats returning from Korea, they wouldn’t have accepted an otherwise healthy patient with insurance?!

I did get to do an anatomy scan at my 24 week appointment with the new ob since I hadn’t had the official anatomy scan. They confirmed that Tiffany is definitely a girl and everything looks great. And then they proceeded to ask me if I wanted to do genetic testing to make sure that everything was fine because ultrasounds don’t catch anything. I was like, “as long as insurance covers it, you can do blood work. But I’m not paying for anything out of pocket.” So the blood work people call and tell me how much it will cost if insurance doesn’t pay for testing but can’t tell me if my insurance will pay anything, even though they know what my deductible and copay could be…I declined the testing and they were surprised. With Clarissa I would have paid the ridiculous price just to have peace of mind. But this round, I am not worried about the baby. She’s fine. And even if she isn’t for some reason, she’s still our baby.

I am not dreading the labor and delivery process, per say, but I don’t know that I am looking forward to it either. If I have back labor again, I will not hesitate to get an epidural this round. I may get one anyway and not feel like a failure. Clarissa was healthy with an epidural. God has given us medical technology so there is no shame in using it.

Along the same lines, I tried to do everything naturally with Clarissa. I didn’t even take over the counter medications unless I absolutely had to. I tried to do neti pots and things like that instead of taking decongestants. This round, if it is on an approved list of medications, I take it without feeling bad about it. Especially when we were in Korea and I was getting headaches from the bad air.

I am interested to see how different Tiffany’s personality is than Clarissa’s. Clarissa is a mix of me and Tim, but more Tim than me. Tiffany is definitely really active in the womb like Clarissa was. But she is in a different position so I am hopeful that I won’t have back labor this round. I am also interested to see how this 6 year age gap plays out in their relationship. And what it will be like to be a mom of two. But I look forward to the challenge and know that God will guide Tim and I as we raise these beautiful girls.

It’s a good thing Clarissa had a change of heart…

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Until the end of last week, Clarissa was pretty adamant that she wanted a little brother. I was confused because she spent the past three years asking for a little sister. She finally told me why.

She doesn’t want to share her toys. An only child for five years gets used to having her own things. Clarissa assumed that if she had a baby sister, she would grow up to want to play with all of her toys. But a little brother would ignore her girly toys and play with his own. When I explained that a little brother would want to play with her toys too, she was very confused.

On Monday, the realtor asked Clarissa if she wanted a brother or a sister. She responded “both” and kissed my tummy.

We had an ultrasound on Tuesday. The doctor asked if we wanted to know the gender of the baby and we all said “Yes!” The translator said, “It’s probably a girl.” Clarissa was very upset, but not for the reason that you think. She said, “But is it a boy or a girl? Why don’t they know for sure?”

I guess Tim will name all of our children. The name Clarissa was his idea and it took a few days to grow on me. This time it did not take as long.

As we were walking out of the hospital, he said, “What do you think about Tiffany?” Tiffany means manifestation of God. Upon further research, Tiffany is a translation of the word epiphany and is often given to girls born on January 6. We actually found out that we were pregnant on January 6.

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By the time we arrived at dinner, the three of us agreed that her name is Tiffany Grace so “manifestation of God and grace.” This is the perfect name for her. If we got pregnant when we first started trying, she would be due in June which would be either very difficult or not possible with our PCS (moving) date. This way, our furniture that will take at least 3 months to arrive to our new house should arrive in August. We will have plenty of time to get our new home set up and comfortable before Tiffany comes in mid September. We didn’t know the timing of any of this, but God knew. And it also fits with the word that God gave me in the beginning of the pregnancy that “mercy and grace would follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Tim also had a vision a while ago that this child would be in ministry.

We of course followed dinner with a trip to the px to find some cute little girl clothes. We each had a different favorite, so we bought them all.

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I think that the reason that we could not tell the gender at the last ultrasound was that four weeks ago Clarissa was adamantly against having a baby sister. Now Clarissa is very excited about her baby sister. I think it helps that she has a name now too.

Our favorite books for babies and toddlers

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I have been reading to Clarissa since before she could talk. At first, she chomped on the books as I read them. But eventually she learned to sit and look at the books. We had several favorites when she was really small. These are our favorite books for babies and toddlers.

  • Time for Bed by Mem Fox
    I loved the repetition in this book. “It’s time for bed little sheep, little sheep. The whole wide world is going to sleep…” Clarissa loved the animals in the book. I would say goodnight and call her a different animal every night.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
    Clarissa really liked this one, I think because of the bunny. It rhymes and has decent pictures. As a bigger kid, she was confused about why they said goodnight to so many objects because “you don’t need to say goodnight to air.” But as a baby, she loved it.
  • God Made Me
    Clarissa loved this one because of all the animals. She liked to tell me the names of the animals in the pictures. I liked that she was learning that God made everything.
  • Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
    This is another rhyming book with wonderful pictures. I loved that this book taught Clarissa that no matter what, Mommy would always love her. And that even as a grown up she would know that she was loved.
  • On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
    Clarissa preferred this one because of all the adventures the animals had on the “wonderful, marvelous night she was born.”
  • God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    This is one in a series of books about Little Cub and her family. This one explains how Mommy and Daddy were excited that God was giving them a baby and some of the anticipation they had for baby’s birth and then what life was like when they brought baby home. She liked the bears.
  • Time for a Hug by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green
    This was Clarissa’s favorite book for about a year. She loved that the bunny and her mom had a hug like every hour of the day. I think she also liked that Daddy would hug her every time it happened in the book. This would also be a great book to teach little kids about a schedule.